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Landowner wants to move Ontario Ridge trail, again 

Rob McCarthy makes no bones about it: He wants to move the popular Ontario Ridge hiking trail off his property, and he considers the trail to be unsafe.

Though McCarthy lost a protracted battle with the California Coastal Commission in 2014 over his right to install hiker-deterring fences and signs on the trail between Shell Beach and Avila Beach, he hasn’t yet given up on the endeavor.

On Jan. 15 of this year, McCarthy and his local representative Dave Watson submitted a 20-page application to the San Luis Obispo County Department of Planning and Building for a minor use permit to relocate the trail.

The application lists the project description as a “proposed minor use permit to relocate pedestrian access, construct 5-foot-wide pedestrian trail … [and] private property line fencing and signage.”

In attached schematics, McCarthy proposes swinging the trail sharply to the north before winding around to the same end point: the Pirate’s Cove parking lot. As proposed, the trail would still partially traverse his property, but would avoid the site of McCarthy’s desired house as well as a steep trail segment he considers “dangerous.”

McCarthy hadn’t returned a request for comment from New Times as of press time.

When asked about McCarthy’s application, county planner Ryan Hostetter said the proposal is “on hold” right now since the county wasn’t sure precisely what McCarthy was requesting.

“We sent Mr. McCarthy a letter on Feb. 9 asking him for further information and plans,” Hostetter said. “The clock is no longer ticking, and he has as much time as he needs to respond.”

According to Hostetter, multiple county departments are working cooperatively to determine if McCarthy’s proposal is a bad idea or would benefit the public.

“We’re looking to go to the Board of Supervisors and see if there’s interest in working with Rob to move the trail or not,” Hostetter said. “We want to take this to a public hearing.

“If the county doesn’t want to move their easement at all, then there’s no sense in investing time and money processing the permit,” she added. “We’ll just have to see.”

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